23. Chris Squire

Chris Squire (4 March 1948 – 27 June 2015)

There was always something very privileged and public school about progressive rock. It was spawned out of nice middle class children having music lessons and being in the school choir in the early 1970s. There was a classical Englishness about it. Classical musicians let off the leash to twiddle and play as fast and as long as they could. There was always the 5 minute drum solo, keyboard wizardry or lengthy guitar solo to endure. It was part orchestra, part spectacle and usually ostentatious and pretentious.
Groups (not bands) such as Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Gong, Pink Floyd and Yes typified the progressive rock group which the ideal of punk kind of killed off.

Yet out of the progressive rock genre came a genius: a genius of the Bass Guitar – Chris Squire. The classic Yes albums where he can be really heard are Fragile, the Yes album and Close to the Edge followed by the double album of Tales from Topographic Oceans and finally the rockier Relayer.

It could be argued that the pop bass guitar in the 1960s combined with the drums was the backdrop to the melody like on Motown records. The only bass guitar that was allowed equally footing but still low in the mix was the jazz double bass and bass guitar.

But Chris Squire developed a sound on his Rickenbacker bass that combined bass and trouble sounds to produce a unique bass buzz that could be instantly recognised. If you ignore the context and just listen to the sound of the bass, playing under and over the melody in a way that had never been heard of – except the bass playing of
John Entwistle of The Who.

Chris Squire developed a virtuosity on the Bass Guitar that was unrivalled. He played with a pick, and ran the Rickenbacker Bass through a guitar and bass guitar amp. Listen to the track Roundabout from the album Fragile as an introduction to his unique sound where the bass supports the drums and then takes off on flights of fancy like an electric guitar solo. The trick he had was that he still supported the song and the drums but managed to entice you into wondering when was he going to go off on one – supporting the song while sounding like a bass solo. At times sparse and minimal while at other times thunderous and over the top.

His influence on other bass players can still be heard. Read all the tributes! Ironically punk brought the Jam whose bassist Rick Butler played a Rickenbacker bass and had a similar sound to Chris Squire. Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers also acknowledges him as a big influence.

He was a big complex man who in his twenties sounded like a school choir boy and as a mature adult more like a cockney taxi driver who was really funny.

Condolences to his family, especially his children and friends and the millions of fans worldwide.

Chris Squire (4 March 1948 – 27 June 2015)

Copyright Adrian Scott North London Counsellor Blog 2015
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